Anopheles Visits Again- End December 2014

It was after a long time that Anopheles, my winged friend (a female of the mosquito-kind) was visiting me. After the customary pleasantries, she asked me how things were going in the human world.

"Is it evolving for the better?" she wanted to know.

" I don't think so. We are just getting more barbaric, suspicious, trivial, selfish....."
"Wait," she interrupted. "You seem to be depressed."
"Yes. We just had the latest round of meaningless killing. This time it was children in a school that got gunned down." I gave her the facts.

"That's sad. Will mankind survive all this?"
"Hope it does, at least for your sake. What will you do for food if it doesn't?" I said.
"Oh, we'll make it, don't worry. We'll adapt, and maybe become humans in a few years...maybe not, after what you have told me."

I agreed. "You are probably better off as mosquitoes. So what's up with you? All well?"

She was upbeat. "Yes,  Ï would say so. We are making progress. Now no mosquito lives in drains; we all have a clean pot or dish of water to live and breed in. We had a reformer who finally 'modified'our bureaucracy and made it answerable to the common mosquito, empowering us. Our little ones get to go to school, and each kid gets a free drop of blood at mid-day, to encourage them not to drop out and go to work. We call it 'good governance'."

I was ashamed, but also happy that someone was making progress. Out here, getting a pot-holed road repaired seemed like a Herculean task, whether you were a CAT or were going from Agra to Bombay. Not to speak of fixing the fiscal deficit, bringing in the billions from tax havens posing as progressive nations, keeping the Supercop from meddling in the "Meddle-east", and keeping the Upper and Lower Houses in working condition. I told her so, and we decided to meet more regularly, and share our news with each other. Beats watching Arnab, any day.

Note: For those who missed out on the origin of these conversations, here they are-

My Encounters with Anopheles

I have tried to explore the meaning of what I do in my own way. Part
of that exploration was through this series in which I converse with
Anopheles, the female mosquito who bites.

A mosquito buzzed into my bedroom. I was sleepless anyway, so I
started a conversation.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“From the drain on Street No. 6,” the mosquito replied.
“Do you always have to travel this far for dinner?”
“Not really, but I go for quality food. So I don’t really mind.”
“Tell me something. Is it necessary for you to suck the blood of
human beings to survive? Can’t you find some other food?”

The mosquito looked surprised. “The human body has 6 litres of
blood on an average. What’s a drop or two for you?”
I replied, “Our sleep is disturbed, for one. And, of course, your bite
is, quite literally, A PAIN.”
“Do you really need so much sleep? Why don’t you remain awake
and think about things?” the mosquito enquired.
“Like what?” I asked.
“You asked me why I had to draw blood from humans. Have you
ever thought about why you slaughter all those animals you use as
food? And plants, roots and fruits. Aren’t they life forms too? At
least, we don’t totally kill or destroy you. All we do is take a drop
of blood, and go. Is that so objectionable? “ the mosquito looked
at me questioningly.
That forced me to lie awake and think about the exaggerated notions
of the superiority of humankind, before I finally fell asleep- after
firmly tucking in the mosquito net.

Episode 2

My bedroom was abuzz. Once again, the same mosquito was with
me. I learnt from her this time that she was named Anopheles.
After a Greek mosquito goddess. We continued our conversation.
“What do you live for?” I asked.
“For a lot of things. For family, friends and society. And for myself,
to enjoy life as much as I can. To realise my potential for doing
good.” It was amazing to find a mosquito telling me things which I
thought only humans were capable of thinking about.
“You told me last time you lived in a drain,” I said. “Do mosquitoes
always live in drains?”
“Of course not. Some have palatial accommodation. Lakes, ponds,
tanks, …even buckets. Depends on what you can afford. And what
lifestyle you aspire to have. But if you have grown up in a drain, it
is very difficult to migrate to the lakes. You see, they have a different
way of life out there. And they look down upon us.”

This sounded suspiciously like the GREAT CLASS DIVIDE, and I
ventured to ask, “But aren’t all mosquitoes born equal?”
She gave me one of those looks. “Are all humans born equal?”
Without waiting for my answer, she went on, “Then why do you
think we are?”
After a pause, she added, “There was this reformer, a couple of
decades ago, called FULL MARX. He tried to change things so
that all mosquitoes would be on par socially and economically. He
painted his revolutionary ideas on walls in his own blood. He called
the series “MOS KAPITAL”.
“What happened then?” I asked, with great interest.
“Nothing. He went the way of all revolutionaries. His ideas were too
idealistic. The mosquitoes who became powerful wanted to keep the
power at all costs, and succeeded. The dreams of a classless society
evaporated quickly. Life became worse than before. So his ideas were
abandoned, and we are back to the earlier system.” On that sombre
note, Anopheles waved me goodbye and sailed away silently.

Episode 3

Anopheles was back with a buzz (and not a bang). Our conversation
this time veered around to education. I happened to mention to
her that I was a marketing professor, and was surprised to learn
from Anopheles that mosquitoes also have schools.
“How much have you studied?” I enquired of her.
“Not a whole lot, I’m afraid,” she replied. “You see, I have a large
family to support. And I am the sole BLOOD WINNER. That
leaves hardly any time to study. But I do attend some short courses
from time to time, to keep myself up to date,” she added.
“May I ask what these courses teach?” I was curious.
“Oh, this and that. Some are practical, like the one I attended last
week, called ‘Stinging Least to Draw the Most Blood,’ which
essentially taught me how to increase the efficiency of a sting. Then
there was another called ‘How to Minimise the Danger of Human
Attacks’. Some of them are for fun, like ‘Floating in the Air’ and
‘Swinging From a Single Hair’, or ‘Training Your Young Ones to
Play Hide n’ Seek in Keyholes’.”

“What are the objectives of your formal education system?” I
asked her.
“That every little one should grow up to be a good, honest, useful
mosquito,” she replied without hesitation.
“To what extent is the objective achieved?” I wanted to know.
“A lot depends on the students themselves. Some are motivated and
do well for themselves. Others sleepwalk through their classes and
remain unaffected. Yet others put their ‘learning’ to mischievous
uses, and become blots on the mosquito-landscape.”
“Sounds very familiar,” I muttered. “Anyway, let’s change the topic.
What do you do for recreation?”
“We create buzzwords. That is our major leisure activity,” she
informed me.

“What do you mean?” I couldn’t fathom this one.
“Just what I said. We have individual events, in which each of us
buzzes a new buzz. If the panel of judges feels it is original, we enter
the final round. The best new buzzword (an accepted new Buzz is
called a buzzword) gets a prize. We also have team events, where a
team can work together to create new buzzwords. It’s a lot of fun.”
Anopheles proceeded to demonstrate a new buzzword she had just
made up, by flapping her wings musically. “Do you have buzzwords
too?” She asked me.
“Yes,” I replied. “But in our case, the objective is different. We
create buzzwords so that we can confuse novices (sometimes nonnovices
too), and then charge them money to clear their confusion.
For example, take the buzzword “Corporate Restructuring”. Till
date, nobody has been able to figure out what it means. The process
of explaining what it means has spawned an entire industry - called
Management Consultancy.” On that note, I bade her goodbye, and
settled down to some well-earned respite from a ‘buzzy’ day.

Episode 4

My winged friend sailed into my room once more. “What’s on
your mind?” I asked her.
“Oh, nothing.” But quickly, she was out of her self-imposed silence.
“Tell me, if humans are so smart, why aren’t they happy?”

This was an unexpected googly- a doosra. I tried to counter with
a lecture on the longings of all human beings to be one with the
supreme being, and their quest for real happiness, but I didn’t
sound convincing to myself. As I had thought, my arguments were
instantly rebuffed.
“What are the major differences between your life and mine?”
Anopheles asked pointedly. I had to think hard. “You fly, and I
don’t,” I tried.
“Come on, now. Next you will say that you are big and I am small,
and that you can read a book and I can’t. Is that all?”
That got me thinking about why we as a human race existed, and
all I could think of was the violence, the greed, the crime, the grime
and the filth most human beings encounter in their lives. Most
of our instincts and higher abilities did not seem to be put to the
common good at all.
“I agree we seem to be spending too much time on wars over oil
and ideology, …” I stuttered.
“So do animals, over territory or other egoistic pursuits,” she said.
“But we do have a lot of saints who show us the path, and lead
righteous lives,” I added.
“How many did you have in the last hundred years?” she asked
innocently.

I counted up to four, and gave up. She sensed my discomfort, and
changed the subject.
“OK, let’s talk about the subject of parents setting an example
to their children. What do you tell your child to look forward
to in life?”
“A job with Infosys,” I joked. I could see a frown of nonunderstanding
on Anopheles’ face (or so I thought).
“That is one of our fastest growing companies,” I added.
“Will that make your child happy?” This was getting tougher than
I had imagined.

“I think so,” but I was only half serious about this whole thing.
“The only two things ‘happening’ in a child’s life are admission to
an engineering college and a job in Infosys after that, it seems,” I
continued. “And I don’t know if that’s such a good thing.”
“What do children who join this great company do?” her curiosity
was aroused.
“Write some kind of programs- instructions for making computers
work”, I said.
“So the homo sapiens want to spend a lifetime writing programs
to make the dumb machines work?” I had to agree it sounded
ludicrous when it was put like that.
“Well, we also have the BPO sector,” I said.
“And what do young people do there?” she wanted to know.
“Hmm..they answer phone calls, make sales calls, fill out forms
dictated by someone across the world, decide whether some applicant
should be sold insurance or not, and a million other things.”
“And we thought our life was mundane,” Anopheles could not
resist this one.

It was time for me to get into the questioning mode. “Tell me, do
you have religions?” I asked her.
“Yes, we do.”
“How many Gods do you have?”
“Oh, lots. We keep imagining as many as we want.” Sounded
familiar.
“How do you handle religious extremism?” I was curious to know.
“What is religious extremism?” she asked. I could not believe this.
“Don’t you have people…uh, mosquitoes who want to destroy
mosquitoes following another religion, or at least banish them, or
something,” I asked.
“Not really, we are very liberal. Our policy is to live and let live.”
“And ours, live and let die,” I muttered, inspired by James Bond.
I was getting late for office, and excused myself. “We’ll meet another
time,” I told Anopheles, “and continue our tete a tete.”

Episode 5

I was deep in slumber the other night, when she buzzed me. I
thought it was the cellphone, but it was my old friend.
“You don’t talk to me anymore,” she complained.
“It’s not you,” I said. “We don’t talk to anyone, period.”
“Why?” She seemed puzzled.
“Because of Facebook,” I told her.
“What’s that?” She arched her eyebrows.
I said, ‘Every few years, there is a new billionaire who creates
something. Actually ‘creates’ is not the right word, because you can’t
see his creations, except for a few fleeting seconds. Not made of flesh
and blood, like you and me. The latest is this fellow, Zuckerberg by
name, who made his billions and half the world has gone crazy. The
other half is not on Facebook yet only because there is no electricity
in their town.’

‘But what do you do on this Facebook?’ was her innocent
question.
‘Well, it’s hard to explain. We post things- I mean, we write stuff
about which toothpaste we brushed with, whom we are hanging
out with, where we went, whether it rained today, how awful work
is, and so on. And our friends ‘like’ what we write.’
‘How can you call them friends if they ‘like’ your having an awful
day at work?’ She remained interrogative.
I tried to defend Zuckerberg (millionaires tend to bring out this
quality in non-millionaires). I said, “Well, the ‘Like’ is only an
acknowledgement that they read what I wrote. Not that all the
stuff is ‘likeable’.”

Not convinced, she asked, “What else?”
I said, “We also go to exotic places and take pics so that we can
share them with our friends.”
“You mean the same friends we spoke about?”
“Yeah, the same. They can also ‘like’ photos or make some snide
remarks about how you are looking in your new, expensive
hair style.”
“And you insist on calling them friends. With friends like these,
you don’t need enemies.” She smirked.

I was now curious about where she had gone all these years. So I
asked her.
“Oh, life is tough these days.” She became pensive. Continuing, she
said, “You know, with trees being chopped and water bodies drying
up, it is tough to find places to breed. And pesticides are getting
more powerful. Be careful, one day they might affect you. I don’t
know why, but human blood does not taste the same any more.”
“May be it’s polluted by all the chemicals, and those pesticides,”
I suggested.
“Also, she complained, “Our kids want blood to reach them easy,
without having to work for it. Can’t understand the generation.”
That touched a raw nerve. I said, “Let’s discuss this another time.
Boss has called an early morning meeting tomorrow.”

And wishing her goodnight, I went back to sleep.

THE END

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